May 30, 2009

What Goes "Up"

Two unlikely heroes and their friendship form the basis of the newest Pixar tale, Up. Although it is rightly billed as a film for the entire family, this feel good saga also explores the topics of death, loss, and the devastating effects of divorce on children. There are parts both buoyant and poignant, so if you have elementary aged children, the filmmakers have provided plenty of opportunity for family discussion.

Pixar is the new Disney, at least as film production is concerned. The characters are compelling, story is king, and the end result is stellar. Go see this movie with those you love. It's worth the tears and the price of admission.
(Art copyright Disney/Pixar.)

May 29, 2009

Following 2009's Top Two...

Kris Allen and Adam Lambert are great together as they make the American Idol promotional rounds on television. I've seen quite a few video clips, and each man is impressive, funny, talented. They are clearly good friends. The best of the bunch: Kris on Jimmy Fallon's show. Yes, he's also been to Walt Disney World and New York as well. To see the Fallon clip, you can go to the website Kris Allen Nation . Well worth the time- funny as all get out!

Hot- and Hot Off The Press!

This unbelievable news comes right from California... Guess free speech isn't really free depending on what you believe and who you are! It's OK to admire the American Idol folks, but it's not ok to have a different god...
"Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary have been told that they cannot invite friends to their San Diego, Calif. home for a bible study — unless they are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to San Diego County.

"On Good Friday we had an employee from San Diego County come to our house, and inform us that the bible study that we were having was a religious assembly, and in violation of the code in the county." David Jones told FOX News.

"We told them this is not really a religious assembly — this is just a bible study with friends. We have a meal, we pray, that was all," Jones said.

A few days later, the couple received a written warning that cited "unlawful use of land," ordering them to either "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit," the couple's attorney Dean Broyles told San Diego news station 10News.
But the major use permit could cost the Jones' thousands of dollars just to have a few friends over.

For David and Mary Jones, it's about more than a question of money.
"The government may not prohibit the free exercise of religion," Broyles told FOX News. "I believe that our Founding Fathers would roll over in their grave if they saw that here in the year 2009, a pastor and his wife are being told that they cannot hold a simple bible study in their own home."

"The implications are great because it’s not only us that’s involved," Mary Jones said. "There are thousands and thousands of bible studies that are held all across the country. What we’re interested in is setting a precedent here — before it goes any further — and that we have it settled for the future."

The couple is planning to dispute the county's order this week.

If San Diego County refuses to allow the pastor and his wife to continue gathering without acquiring a permit, they will consider a lawsuit in federal court."

Pure bigotry, nothing more. Somtimes it feels as if the community of faith is the last acceptable target in which to spew hatred. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion is for Everyone!
Go here to complain to the Mayor.

May 28, 2009

New Music: Amy Grant

Here is someone who has been out of the public eye for a bit!

Thankfully, it seems like the wait for new music is coming to an end. Amy Grant has two new songs available as part of an EP exclusively on i-tunes. It is a very nice thing to be able to wrap my ears around a friendly and familiar voice like Amy's. New friends are silver, old are gold- and she's got the list of accomplishments to prove she is an enduring artist. Pre-, during, or post A& M Records, Amy is a class act.

May 27, 2009

Maui Sunset

On a rainy day, a glimpse through old travel photos and a Maui sunset are just the thing to brighten my outlook. Hawaii must be one of the most enchanting places in the United States. It is no wonder island fever hit the States in the mid last century.

I was thrilled with this photo when it was first developed over 15 years ago. This particular trip holds fond memories. Means even more to me now that the dear friend we traveled with is no longer gracing this earth.
(Photo copyright Mark Taft.)

May 26, 2009

The Axe

Gotta say, I've had India.Arie and her beautiful version of the Eagles' The Heart of the Matter going through my head...

It is only a tree. Just a tree, nothing more, but one of great sentimental value. The tree our kids climbed and the one we watched grow over the last couple of decades.

We were thrilled for new next door neighbors to finally move in after the house had been vacant for two full years. We'd seen folks moving in boxes bit by bit. Actually, we'd seen a huge extended family moving in. Hadn't yet had a chance to welcome them to the cul d' sac, but we thought we'd wait until they didn't look so busy. And until all the relatives had gone home.

Last Saturday, while we were enjoying some time with friends in our home, my wife had briefly ducked out to get something in our car. The pained look on her face was accompanied by the words, "There's a man in our tree with an axe, and he's cutting it down." I was not thrilled.

Walking outside, I found the a man in his late fifties sitting in our tree chopping away at the branches around him. Politely but quite loudly to get his attention, I told him "Enough- get out of our tree!" In broken English, he replied that the branches were hitting his roof. My response was a firm "That's fine to cut them off at the property line, but you cannot get in my tree, on my lawn, directly by my front window, and cut them off at the trunk." I was not happy, but the damage was done as he climbed down. "I wish you would have talked to me. I would have been glad to help you. I just wish you would have let me know what you wanted to do." An even older man in his late seventies quietly looked at me and lowered his head. We went inside.

My wife cried tears of sentimentality- old memories clashing with the new reality. I was just mad. I felt violated. Bullied. Overlooked. Yet, I have to say, if anyone thinks there is no God, let me tell you, I was a monument to the power of Him working through me in the area of self control. In days of old, I would have pulled him out of that tree, yelled colorful words, and called an attorney to file a lawsuit. Trust me, God is real and active! I returned inside to our guests.

Several hours later, once our friends had departed, I journeyed outside to view the damage. Our neighborly lumberjack was gone as was the entire family. The craftsmanship was shoddy. The poor tree looked slaughtered with one third of it cut off, stumps left like shards of glass from the trunk. I walked inside, stewed a bit and burst into tears once I sat down in our living room.

A couple of hours passed by. We decided that it was just a tree, and our relationship with our newest neighbors was more important to us. A young man drove up, parked his car, and walked directly to the remains of the tree. My wife and I stepped out to greet him. He probably didn't know what to expect. Instead of anger, what came out of me was a gentle hello. His response was shocking. "Please forgive me for what happened. I am so sorry my father did this to your tree. I had no idea he was planning to do anything. I am so sorry. How can I fix this?"

Our new neighbor was actually the young man now in front of me. My reply was gentle, too, as I was surprised by Eric's response, "Just fix the cuts so they are smooth and prepare the tree afterwards. We never have to speak of this again." Then, I extended my hand and smiled. "Welcome to the neighborhood." We went on to have a very nice conversation about them moving into the area.

In hindsight, the issue wasn't the offense. It was how I would react to it. I had every right to feel violated and angry, but the damage was not reversible. Would I choose to forgive or hold a grudge and never move on? The heart of the matter was forgiveness. Would I practice what I preach? Would I grow beyond this and value relationship over my rights and my anger? For once, the answer was "yes".

May 25, 2009

Hit the Road Jack!

Today marks the last day that Dinosaur Jack's Sunglass Shack will be open at Disney's California Adventure. It is the next item to be removed and/or retooled in the ongoing saga of the park and the transformation of the Paradise Pier district.

Two interesting tidbits come to mind as I type this post. First, the image above is an official Disney photo- and its poor quality could also be a metaphor for the state of the park at opening in 2001. Secondly, as I looked through my own photos of trips to the Disneyland Resort, I could not find a single photo of the beast from my last six trips. Neither the original pink version or the revamped green one. (Interesting, as I love Dino Gerties at Disney's Hollywood Studios.)

The image directly comes courtesy "amandaw", and I thank her for it.

As inconvenient as it is for the whole area to be changed in preparation for the World of Color nighttime show and the Little Mermaid E ticket attraction, I trust the Imagineers and know the end result will be worth the pain. So with that, I say goodbye to Dinosaur Jack, and goodbye to the California Adventure of old and on to the new. Adios and farewell!
(Above photograph copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

May 22, 2009

Trading "Spaces"

As a renewed Space Mountain is under way at the hands of Imagineering...

Here is something that I believe is pretty cool: concept art of the Florida Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain. This scan comes from the last page of a pictorial souvenir dated 1972.

What makes it unique? Look closely and you can see the large entrance area- similar in size to the entrance to the Land pavillion at Epcot, maybe larger. An even closer inspection reveals rockets circling the outside of the mountain. To my understanding, these rotating rockets were only for show and illusion with no intent to have thrill seekers actually go outside the structure.

This same souvenir guide also has renderings for Western River Expedition, an unbuilt Marc Davis masterpiece in the tradition of Pirates of the Caribbean (now vaguely rumored for Disneyland Paris); Thunder Mesa, the huge complex that would include Expedition, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and other smaller attractions; and a newer version of Pirates itself. Of course, these are all stories and scans for another day...

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

May 21, 2009

Disneyland Takes to the Sea

A Disneyland theme park on a cruise ship? Absolutely! That is the heart of an amazing interview with a former Disney Imagineer on the always surpring, always excellent Disney and More blog. Hurry, go there now!

May 20, 2009

Denver Ink

After a year of planning, my youngest son came home with a tattoo. We had asked he graduate from high school first, then get a job prior to beginning college before ink hit skin. To his credit, he chose to honor our request. This is partially because he is a great young man, and partially because he didn't want a fight on his hands!

Being a fan of "virgin skin", I can still appreciate the artistic side of it all. I know many people, including my youngest daughter, who shares his decision. What did he get inked forever on him? An image of Jesus and his crown of thorns. Some may scoff, but I say we are either drawing closer to or farther away from Jesus by what we do and how we live. If my son's choice helps him always remember to put God first, what Dad can complain? What will I choose today? What about you? Whether it is inked in our skin or not, what we choose makes its own imprint on our souls and spirits- as well as our bodies. Lord, help me choose wisely today.

May 19, 2009

Blue Sky Disney: Voice of Mickey Passes Away

Per Blue Sky Disney, Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse has passed away. Rest in peace.

Imagineering a New Dream- Disney's California Adventure 2.0

California Adventure was the not astounding success the Walt Disney Company wanted for the Disneyland Resort in California. Most fans detested the park, staying away in record numbers and complaining loudly at Guest Services and on line. Word of mouth was bad. Visitors to the resort saw Paradise Pier from afar, rightly thinking "carnival", and this poor impression only kept them away as well. Sponsors began to drop out. Quick fixes and "sure fire" attractions like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror didn't do much for attendance.

Robert Iger wisely admitted the park hadn't met expectations, and along with a proposed one billion dollar plan to fix it, earned much respect from fans. Imagineering a New Dream began, and California Adventure 2.0 was on its way.

Much has already been written about what is ahead. No rehashing here, as a picture is worth a thousand words...

Pixar Play Parade

Toy Story Midway Mania

Blue Sky Cellar

New Paradise Pier

Games of the Boardwalk

Mickey's Fun Wheel

Grand Californian Expansion and Disney Vacation Club Units

Silly Symphony Swings

World of Color

Goofy's Sky School

New Entrance to the Park and Buena Vista Street

The Little Mermaid

Cars Land


In this case as always, the end result speaks louder than concept art, so let's just hope the end result matches some of this beautiful artwork!
(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)